Recently, a friend of mine said on Facebook that she had been to a service for the first Sunday in Lent and there had been absolutely no mention of the fact that it was Lent in the service. That surprised me, but then I realised that there had been no reference to Lent in any of my services that day either! I guess the questions is did it matter?
On one hand it did not matter at all. The services that I was involved with were both very good and people seemed to think that they were beneficial to them and that they were good acts of worship. On the other hand it would be a great shame if we went through Lent without any mention of it in our worship at all. This is one reason why I think it is good that we at Davenham have a Lent liturgy to follow each week, using symbols associated with Easter. It functions in a similar way to the Advent Candles which light our way through Advent helping us to think each week about Lent and Easter.
It would be entirely possible to go through lent without thinking about it. This I suppose is why giving up something for Lent or having some other Lenten discipline is a good idea. On the Archers this year some of the characters have given up grumbling and complaining for Lent and every time they moan they have to make a donation to charity. At least this makes them think about Lent. Of course Lent is not about giving up chocolate or moaning the point of Lent is for us to reflect on our relationship with God and more importantly to think about the meaning of Easter for us. The real shame would be that we get to Easter Sunday without any reflection on its importance.
This is one reason why I have challenged the people at Hartford to answer the question ‘what does Easter mean to me?’ As they reflect on that question and try and interpret it in art or craft they are preparing themselves for the celebration of Easter. Before and after the Easter services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and on Holy Saturday, there will be an opportunity to see what members of the church have produced in their own reflections and perhaps that will stimulate your own thinking about Easter. If you come along to Hartford, I hope it will help you to reflect on ‘what Easter means to me?’
I do hope that you will have a good lent and so you will come to Easter ready to mark the death and resurrection of Jesus.
It seems to me that at this time of year often I write on the theme of Christmas. That of course is perfectly logical as our minds are turning towards our Christmas celebrations. The problem with that, as far as I can see, is that it means I don’t always mention Advent. Christmas and our preparations for Christmas seem to dominate our thinking at this time of year as we get ready for the big day and make our plans for the celebration.
Of course, Advent is the time in which we get ready for Christmas. It is the period of time leading up to Christmas. In our Church and possibly in our homes, especially if you have children, you will be counting down towards Christmas Day. In Church we will have our advent candles and in your homes you may have an advent calendar. In the past we have had an advent calendar in our home even though we are all adults mainly as an excuse to have a piece of chocolate each day. I have seen advertised this year a number of expensive looking advent calendars designed for containing beer or wine.
I think these sorts of ways of marking Advent are helpful but they have one problem and that is that they are marking the passage of time until Christmas. My concern is that Advent is a season of the Christian’s year in its own right. It is a bit like Lent which of course marks the lead up to Easter. As we use Lent as a time to think about our faith in relation to the cross and resurrection of Jesus, so too we should be using Advent as a time to think about why Jesus was born.
The word advent has to do with the arrival or coming of someone special. So in Christian terms Advent is about thinking about how Jesus comes to us. This is preparation for Christmas because on Christmas Day we celebrate how Jesus came to live on earth, but Advent can be about more than that. For example you might want to think about how Christ comes to you now, how you meet Jesus and know Jesus in the present day. Jesus in his teaching also talked about a time when he would return to earth and establish the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. What does that second coming of Jesus mean to you?
So I hope you have a great Advent as you prepare yourself spiritually for Christmas and that you will take some time during the weeks of Advent to think and pray about the things I have mentioned. Then hopefully you will have a helpful Advent and a merry Christmas.